An Interview with Ryan Pickett – By Matthew Saliba

Ryan Pickett is the award-winning director behind, "Look," an exquisite experimental narrative short film that evokes feelings of a Lynchian nature in regards to its masterful use of visual metaphors as well as a Coco Chanel ad in terms of its costume and set design. I reviewed this film in last month’s issue and decided to catch up with the director to get his thoughts on filmmaking and to shed some more light on his film.

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MS: Let’s start out by having you tell us a bit about yourself and how you came to be a filmmaker.

RP: It’s been my passion to create movies as long as I can remember. I remember as a little kid watching the Oscars with my parents thinking that’s what I want to do. I was lucky enough to meet John Waters at an art show with all his set designs from his movies in High School. He sat on stage and talked with his set designer about making movies, real guerilla style and getting it done at any cost. I could have listened to him for hours. A real inspiration who made nothing in the world sound cooler then being a filmmaker. After college I headed straight to Los Angeles and found myself surrounded by so many creative and inspiring people with whom I worked with on numerous projects. While there I was bitten by the acting bug and concentrated more on that than directing. This really helped me in the long run as a director because I learned so much about actors and their craft. I then found myself in Nashville where I began attending film school. I also was lucky enough to find myself surrounded by very creative people with whom I would go onto make my first student films with.

MS: Who are some of your favorite filmmakers and how have they influenced your work?

RP: Stanley Kubrick and Orson Welles. Welles for knowing exactly what a film needs to work and to be great and his unrelenting passion and Kubrick for his amazing shot selection and unrelenting passion as well. Both were perfectionists. I can’t say exactly how they have influenced me but it would be an honor for someone watching my movies to say they can tell I was influenced by either of those great directors.

MS: What does filmmaking mean to you and what goals do you hope to achieve through your work?

RP: It’s expression from myself as well as my connection to humanity. I hope to connect to people in simple universal emotion unfiltered.

MS: What was your motivation behind making, "Look?"

RP: I was really inspired by the art, the high fashion industry was creating in print ads as well as the short films being released by Chanel.

MS: In many respects, "Look" is the quintessential experimental narrative. What is it about this particular approach to filmmaking that interests you and what was it about the story that necessitated such an approach?

RP: I feel so alive as a director when making films like this. It’s pure emotion. What can we tell you from just our eyes? What are you seeing with yours? Essentially what "Look" is about. Perception and how it works in our lives. The story was just part of the whole, I knew what I wanted to accomplish in this film and worked on a story that would allow that. There actually was a bit more dialogue in the film that I decided to cut out. The story is what you create in your head while watching it, not one I wrote. Or that was my intention.

MS: Given the elusive nature of the film, what was your approach in dealing with your cast who undoubtedly had questions regarding their motivation and relation to the story?

RP: I had a really wonderful group of experienced actors who understood everything from the script and a few rehearsals. We also kept it pretty organic on set and went off emotion. I let them feel comfortable and free to create.

MS: There are those who may critique your film as being obtuse in regard to its symbolism and slippery narrative. How do you respond to that and is there any validation in such a critique?

RP: From my experience as a film festival goer I’ve found most student films explore three to four of the same topics and I just wanted to try something different. I didn’t want a ‘heavy” topic that so many try to address. I wanted basic emotions people deal with everyday of their lives.

MS: "Look" was shot on the Red One 4K camera. What was that experience like and why did you choose the Red over a camera like the Canon 5 or 7D?

RP: I was really amazed by the camera first and foremost and to see some of the features shot on it and what big name directors have done with it. I knew that nothing would hold my cinematographer and I back from what we wanted to do visually.

MS: If you could remake any film in history, which one would you choose, why and what approach would you take that would differ from that of the original?

RP: I would remake "Citizen Kane." It is a masterpiece that most people nowadays sadly have not seen, but they haven’t even heard of it. I would make it color, more visually spectacular, change the script some with dialogue but the story itself is one of the best written so I wouldn’t stray from it too far.

MS: Do you have any new projects in the pipeline?

RP: There are a couple of scripts I am working on right now that I’m very excited about including a feature length.

MS: If someone wanted to get in touch with you regarding a project, how would they go about doing that?

RP: Ryanpickettproductions.com has my contact information. Thank you.